The last time Denis Shapovalov defeated a Top 5 player, the year was 2017. On home soil, in Montreal, he made his first big splash with a stunning victory over Rafael Nadal.

On Thursday in Rome, Shapovalov looked in prime position to end a 14-match losing streak against Top 5 opponents dating back to that memorable upset—and pull off even more surprising victory over the Spaniard.

Yet, as we’ve seen so often, if an opportunity to extend a lead against Nadal, especially on clay, isn’t taken, it foreshadows an unfavorable outcome to come. And that’s exactly what happened, as the No. 3 seed prevailed, 3-6, 6-4, 7-6 (3), saving two match points in the process to stymie his fellow left-hander.

Down a set and 3-0, 30-40, and later 3-1, 40-0, Nadal dug out of both situations to level the contest. To his credit, Shapovalov didn't fold. He reset mentally to grab the first break of the deciding set, though failed to consolidate at 3-1. From there, a stretch of holds saw the contest escalate in tension.


Nadal denies Shapovalov's upset bid in Rome by saving two match points

Serving at 5-5, 30-0 lead, Shapovalov was in position to go up 40-0, but missed a short-court forehand well wide. Three points later, he stared down his first of three break points in the game, saving each to stay in front.

Nadal then fell behind 15-30. He won a lengthy rally to fend off Shapovalov's first match point, then saved the second when the 22-year-old framed a forehand.

Seeking his 10th title at the Internazionali BNL d'Italia, Nadal will get his shot at revenge against Alexander Zverev, who beat him in last week's Madrid quarterfinals. The German rallied to defeat Kei Nishikori, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4.

Stay tuned for a full report from Steve Tignor on this third-round clash.